Archive for November, 2015

Christopher Nosnibor

York, on a wet, windy night in November. The Ouse has breached once more, and it feels like the end of the world is nigh. Again. You’d expect northerners to be made of sterner stuff, but it seems the city’s gig goers have given in to the urge to hibernate, or otherwise trot out the wimpish ‘not on a school night’ line. It’s their loss, and it’s no doubt better for a band to play to a moderate, but enthusiastic crowd than to a larger indifferent one, and it does mean getting serves isn’t an issue (although deciding which beer to have is. It’s not ever venue that had half a dozen hand—pulled ales on at £3.40 a pint). And for me, given that Post War Glamour Girls have produced two of my favourite albums of the last three years, while proving themselves to be a consistently killer live band, missing this show was never an option.

Ahead of Leeds’ finest taking to the stage, relative newcomers to the York scene, Colour of Spring show us what they’ve got.

Now, it’s easy to knock ‘the kids’ for rehashing the music of my youth, but then, the very fabric of musical history is woven from the new generation raiding their parents’ collections. Replicating the sounds of the early 90s in 2015 isn’t really any different from bands in the early 90s ripping off Led Zeppelin or The Doors, or the whole Britpop explosion deriving from the first wave of British pop in the 60s. So, Colour of Spring are four gangly youths with a nice collection of beards, and who make jangling shoegaze. There’s a raggedness to their sound, and a tangible energy between the band members. ‘Sky’ is a perfectly poised recreation of a huge swathe of NME / Melody Maker / John Peel indie, and the last track of the set – which the bassist had to play without an A string – was nicely atmospheric and reminiscent of Slowdive, only with shouty vocals.

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Colour of Spring

It may be the night before their launch gig for album number two in their hometown of Leeds, but this is no warm-up show. Post War Glamour Girls don’t do warm-ups or have a B-game, and they don’t do convention. So instead of playing a large chunk of the new album and wrapping up with a couple of crowd-pleasing oldies, they fire off the set with a slightly sped-up rendition of ‘Little Land’ from their debut before serving up an unreleased track.

It’s around this point my notes taper out, and what notes I have are illegible. Granted, my handwriting’s pretty dismal at the best of times, but I feel I must stress that it’s not because I’m one of those music journalists who gets trolleyed and scrapes together a vague, impressionistic write up that I let it slide: the simple fact is I was too immersed in the performance to take down the set-list and annotate my observations in detail. But what’s every bit as striking as their magnificent hooks and the overall tightness is just how much Post War Glamour Girls are in constant transition. James Smith exudes discontent and an all-consuming drive to keep moving forwards. There’s a strong sense that they’re not doing this for the glory or the money, but through a compulsion that can’t be satisfied and won’t abate.

Guitarist James Thorpe, now long-haired and bearded, lofts his guitar to unleash squalls of feedback. His presence seems more prominent than previously, and provides a perfect counterpoint to Alice Scott’s unswerving focus on laying down relentlessly solid grooves.

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Post War Glamour Girls

The pairing of ‘Jazz Funerals’ and the thumping pop romp ‘Felonius Punk’ ratchets up the fury toward the end of the set, which at 40 minutes, is short, but they’re clearly keen adherents to the adage that you should always leave the crowd wanting more. They conclude with the slow-burning, multi-faceted, and multi-sectioned epic from Feeling Strange, ‘Cannonball Villages’, and finds Smith spewing vitriol as he paces in front of the stage while the band pour every last ounce of effort into a rousing finale.

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Post War Glamour Girls

I’ve already lost count of the number of times I’ve seen Post War Glamour Girls in the last four years, but they still elicit the same buzz of excitement as the first time I caught them. While I usually endeavour to maintain a sense of critical distance, sod it, they’re one of the best, most exciting and one of the few truly unique bands around, capable of evoking a vast array of emotions as well as a pure gut response. They’re still on tour. The new album is belting. Go and see them, hear them: you won’t regret it.

Monotype Records – monoLP017

Christopher Nosnibor

The relationship between nostalgia and kitsch is a strange and complex one, although it would be a justified premise that there is an element of synonymy. Every generation is nostalgic for its own bygone age, the appreciation of the less appealing aspects of that age only developing later. Not for nothing are phrases like ‘so bad it’s good’ commonplace: people know something is little short of tat, and it was tat at the time, but the past offers a comfort – or, moreover, an evocation of comfort – absent from the present, in which the future – uncertain, scary – looms large. Safer to retreat to the past, even the detritus of the past – than confront the future, in which the only absolute certainties are ageing and death. There is, of course, another almost predetermined certainty in the future as we now see it: the older we get, the further out of touch we will become, and just as the children of the 80s and 90s spent their youth showing their parents how to use remote controls and computers, so their children will in turn show them how to operate the latest household technologies. The future, stretching out, is a picture of an ever-increasing disconnection the now. And so, the past offers comfort, and familiarity, or at least the illusion thereof.

In light of the way we’ve adapt to existing in the postmodern world, and in context of the immense weight of verbiage devoted to extrapolating the theory and evolution of our present state, culturally and socially, it may be banal to remark that modern technologies have made it possible for today’s younger generations to develop an appreciation of the eras that predate their own. Nevertheless, it’s an important part of the context for the nostalgia boom of the 21st century. Collectively, we love nostalgia, because it calls to mind different, safer, simpler times – even if this in itself is a misrepresentation, symptomatic of the way history becomes revised through misremembrance. But what happens when the accepted versions of history are torn free of the mores of familiarity? For a start, we see those nostalgic features afresh, with new eyes.

Here, Krojc and Fischerle take the type of public service broadcasts and information recordings which have become popular sources of plunder for samplists in recent years (Public Service Broadcasting have forged a career from repurposing such material) and render them in a fashion which is antithetical to the vogueish nostalgia we’ve become accustomed to.

John, Betty and Stella attacks the notion that the past offers comfort, and certainly does not confirm to the kitsch recycling of late postmodernism. Whereas Public Service Broadcasting present their works in a knowing, overtly tongue in cheek and irritatingly faux-artsy manner, selecting source material that evokes a quaintness ideal for repurposing as nostalgia – ready-made nostalgia, with the bonus of inbuilt kitsch – Krojc and Fischerle render less obvious source material all the more unsettling by placing it against a difficult musical backdrop.

Moreover, Krojc and Fischerle don’t lift the material, but engage with it, taking it as a starting point and developing it. All is not as it seems: John, Betty and Stella is, in fact, a radio drama based on vintage tapes for learning English. The dialogue, such as it is, originates from textoob role plays from old vinyl. As such, they reconfigure the material, manipulating it, reshaping it, brutalising it. Cut up, sliced, spliced and collaged against howling solar winds, blasts of static, grumbling industrial noise and bloopy analogue electro weirdness , the effect is immediately jarring, disturbing even.

John, Betty and Stella shares a lineage with William S. Burroughs’ cut-ups, not least of all his audio works from the late 1950s and early 1960s. While not nearly as extreme as the material which featured on, for example, the Nothing Here Now But the Recordings album, the way in which Burroughs strove to ‘free’ words from the constraints of linguistic pre-programming bears an obvious parallel to Krojc and Fischerle’s work here.

The segment on ‘Modern art’ in ‘Figure Behind You’ features throbbing synthesised pulsations and crackling glitchtronica, which provide a dissonant backdrop to a sequence of surreal exchanges, which in turn typify the contents of the album as a whole: “What is this this? A tree?” “No, a man.” “A Man? Where are his legs?” It’s bizarre, and also somewhat comedic, and it’s the fact John, Betty and Stella offers a range of moods that makes it such an engaging listen. Elsewhere, exchanges between the characters of John and Stella take on unsettling aspects: “Stella, wait. Where are you going?” ‘Don’t stop me, John. Let me go!” This tense-sounding exchange takes place eastern-influenced drones snake over distorted rhythms, half exotic, half ominous.

At its best, surrealism has always had the capacity to provoke a sense of the unheimlich, and just as Freud suggested that it was psychologically more difficult to process something familiar, but different, incongruous, than something overtly mysterious or different, so John, Betty and Stella sees Krojc and Fischerle forge a work which closely resembles accessible, mass-market friendly commercial nostalgia, but isn’t it. In fact, it isn’t quite like anything else – and that’s by far the duo’s greatest achievement.

Krojck

Krojc / Fischerle – John, Betty and Stella Online

Baskaru – karu:38

Christopher Nosnibor

Whereas Whetham’s previous work has been preoccupied with geography, the specifics of location, his latest offering uses found sound and field recordings in a very different way. Rather than evoke particular places and experiences, What Matters is that it Matters conjures much vaguer, more abstract notions of place – or perhaps more accurately space, both external and internal.

In a world in which global digital networks render time, place and space subjective matters in many respects – geography is increasingly a state of mind – What Matters is that it Matters offers as much an exploration of a type of psychological topography and a physical one, and forges a sonic labyrinth which the listener’s mental processes amplify, consciously and otherwise.

The album sees Whetham explore forms and textures with haunting, atmospheric compositions. Waves of grainy sound gauze over trailing whistles and drones. And the crackle…. Once you’ve tuned into the surface noise, there’s no escaping it. Of course, this being a CD release, the crackle of interference that rises and falls and disrupts the smooth swell of gently turning drones isn’t real surface noise. It’s the evocation of surface noise. But this in itself is sufficient to trigger a sequence of association. The nostalgia for the vinyl age… as likely now to prompt reminiscences of listening to trip-hop releases which in turn evoke a bygone era, or otherwise provoking recollections of listening to your parent’s scratchy old vinyl and falling in love with the music of a previous generation. Equally, the crackle may call to mind a youth now long gone, and with it, a swell of disparate emotions, nostalgic and conflicting. You don’t hear these things: you feel them, in the pit of your stomach, trickling through your nervous system, twitching in the back of your mind.

I digress… but this is all about the digression, the fleeting idea that life past will forever hang in the air, occasionally needling the present time of the listener, whether welcome or not, whether invited or not. What matters is not the album per se, but the experience, the way in which it resonates: what matters is that it exists, and does resonate – almost subliminally – on a number of levels. What matters is that it’s personal, intimate, interior. It matters, and it matters a great deal.

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Simon Whetham Online

We love a chunky bassline here at Aural Aggravation. ‘Attention’, the new offering from Youthless grabbed ours (attention, that is) by virtue of a bassline to die for, coupled with some soaring vocals. If it’s in any way representative of their upcoming album, set for release early next year, then it’s going to be something special. Listen to it here:

‘Mesumamim’ means ‘On Drugs’ in Hebrew. With this new single offering, Spiritwo, the musical vehicle built around Yael Claire Shahmoon, who TimeOut describe as ‘The Queen of Tel Aviv Underground’, create an exotic, pan-cultural musical blend, which is accompanied by a video that’s visually compelling to say the least. Released as a double a-side with ‘Face To Face’ on 13th November, you can watch the video here, now.

 

The fact it’s early days here at Aural Aggravation, and we’re a mere 25 posts in, excuses us somewhat for failing to represent the Italian Alt-Digitalist scene. The unveiling if ‘’the sblime semi-ambient digital shoegaze masterpiece that is ‘Crash’ by Shirley Said gives us the perfect excise to rectify the situation, though.

Shirley Said are a two-piece, comprising Giulia Scarantino (lead vocal, synth, piano, fx) and Simone Bozzato (backing vocal, guitars, programming, efx).

About ‘Crash’, according to the press release: ‘Emerging from a dense euphonious haze composed of sustained guitar notes, sparkling synth bursts and skittering glitchstep rhythms, Shirley Said’s distinctive vocalist Giulia delivers an angst-ridden ballad about doubt and abandonment. “The ceiling’s coming down/I am crashing to the ground”, she breathes across a gently insistent chorus hook. In exploring the quest for appreciation and reassurance from loved ones, Shirley Said have produced another soundtrack of rich, harmonic electronica, heavy on noirish atmospherics and unorthodox progression.’

Enough text. Here’s a tune.

Christopher Nosnibor

OK, so I’m something of a sucker for the old-school goth thing, but equally, have a deep-seated ambivalence to the scene in general. I love the Sisters, Bauhaus, Danse Society, Skeletal Family and a handful of others, but take issue with the majority of the rest of the bands, because they all sound, and feel so derivative. And while in my teens I was an immense fan of The Mission and still have something of a soft spot, I’m painfully aware of how bad Hussey’s lyrics are, and it’s a shame that many a great ‘goth’ tune has been marred by lyrics that are similarly built upon the blind recycling of cliché

And so it was that I felt a bit uncomfortable at times during Dead Eyes Opened’s set. Craggy-featured Spooks (ahem) is a compelling front man, with strong echoes of Dave Gahan about him. He seemingly embodies the tortured angst the lyrics convey, and they’re strung out over needling tripwire guitar lines, thumping bass grooves and quintessential mechanised goth drum patterns. Reaching forward, outwards… the audience just out of reach. Trapped by the theoretical confines of the edge of the stage but 4” high… The band calls to mind a number of the superior bands of the genre, not least of all Suspiria. There are also hints of the Lorries, and I keep waiting for them to launch into ‘Adrenaline’. What they lack in originality they compensate in presence and quality of material, and if sounding like Rosetta Stone is their worst crime, then they’re clearly doing something right. The drum sound crisp, with some good programming on display. There are Sisters of Mercy lifts aplenty, with the last track nabbing chords from ‘More’. A revelation? Not after all these years but a decent live act with some cracking tunes played well? Very much so.

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Dead Eyes Opened

As for York’s own Berlin Black, singer Chris Tuke comes on channelling Bauhaus’ Peter Murphy – not just through the hair, but in his energetic stage presence. There’s no doubt that there’s a fair amount of booze involved, but he’s got charisma and presence and the element of unpredictability as he teeters on the monitors and various tables and other elevations around the room adds to the excitement of a dynamic performance.

It’s been a couple or so years since I’ve seen Berlin Black, and during that time they’ve evolved a fair bit. I’d also forgotten just how sharp a pop band they are, often calling to mind The Psychedelic Furs circa ‘82 to ’84. Tuke even straps on a keytar for a handful of songs, and on a lesser band it would be cringeworthy and cause for ridicule, but Berlin Black pull it off with aplomb. It helps that they’ve got some great tunes, which emerge from the chaos in pristine form.

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Berlin Black

The live drums provide a distinct contrast with their touring partners, both sonically and in terms of flexibility, and Berlin Black feel a lot more spontaneous, thanks in no small part to the tautness of both their rhythm section (notable for former March Violet Jo on bass) and some intuitive guitar work. The combination of energy and a less derivative sound than many of their peers – not to mention less obvious lyrical tropes – are Berlin Black’s clear strengths, and it’s not surprising that at this hometown show, they go down a storm – and deservedly so.

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Berlin Black

While half the city was out watching fireworks under heavy cloud cover, those who chose to celebrate the first Saturday of November by staying indoors with some decent beer and some decent bands for a mere fiver definitely got the better deal.

Christopher Nosnibor

Killing Joke’s renaissance may have begun with their eponymous 2003 album, but they’ve shown little sign of slowing the momentum since. It’s fitting: they’ve always been the band of the apocalypse, and as humanity under global capitalism seems set on accelerating toward its self-made demise and ultimate destruction of the planet, so Killing Joke are the band to provide the soundtrack. If latest album Pylon is a little more accessible, melodic and less full-on than since of its recent(ish) predecessors, it certainly isn’t a sign they’re softening. And while there are infinite angry, harsh bands out there, Killing Joke still offer a unique proposition – more articulate, both lyrically and musically than pretty much any other band you’ll find railing against the system and the man, their brand of heavy isn’t about raging overdrive, but something more impenetrable, industrial. And it’s live where the full force of their sound really comes across.

Never mind saving the oldies for the end: the set opens with ‘The Wait’ before they get swiftly to the new material, hammering out the bleak ‘Autonomous Zone’. Immediately, the power of the original lineup is apparent: they’re tight, assured and seriously loud. ‘Eighties’ is also thrown in early, providing some light relief and cause for a fair few down the front to bounce around like it’s still 1985 (and yes, I was nine when this album was released: seeing them on Top of the Pops was my first introduction to the band, and even then, I was intrigued and scared in equal measure).

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Like another of my all-time guitar heroes, Swans’ Norman Westberg, Geordie Walker doesn’t go for heroics. No fancy fretwork. No posturing. As unassuming a performer as you’re likely to see, strolling – it’s not even a pacing, that would suggest some kind of agitation – a small space near the edge of the stage, he peels off layer upon layer of churning, sheet-metal guitar noise. Its power lies in the sheer density of the sound. Youth, sporting a crumpled white blazer, buttoned, and a sun visor over which tufts of thinning, matted hair stick, is similarly un-showy in his presence, rocking back and forth and grinding out bowel-shaking basslines that weld perfectly to Paul Ferguson’s thunderous drumming. I ponder, briefly, the number of albums the members of this band are credited in some capacity, Youth in particular with his vast catalogue of production and remixing credits. I also can’t help but be amazed that a band comprised of four middle-aged blokes (and a younger dude on synths) should be one of the most vital and relevant acts I’ll get to see this year.

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Jaz Coleman provides the focal point, of course. Sporting one of his customary boiler suits, hair grown long, he is the embodiment of the manic messiah. It’s often hard to tell if he’s grinning or twisting his craggy face into a terrifying grimace – both are equally scary, and he doesn’t do between-song chat. He’s wired, dangerous, focused. He doesn’t sing the songs, but channels them. He is the virus. He is a ball of fire, coming in from the void. And yes, ‘Asteroid’ is fierce, relentless, explosive. But then, the set’s brimming with highlights from the back-catalogue. Extremities, Dirt and Various Repressed Emotions has long been a favourite of mine, and to hear ‘Money is Not Our God’ attacked with such ferocity was truly exhilarating, and ‘The Beautiful Dead’ was also a welcome inclusion. Meanwhile, ‘Exorcism’ was nothing short of immense, the absolute definition of catharsis. ‘Wardance’ and flipside ‘Psssyche’ inevitably pleased the faithful, the latter wrapping up the main set.

Joke

They’d saved ‘Love Like Blood’ for the encore (having seemingly dropped it for a number of previous shows, if the info on setlist.fm is accurate), but not until they’d powered through ‘Turn to Red’. Wrapping up with a powerhouse rendition of ‘Pandemoneum’, the refrain ‘I can see tomorrow / I can see the world today’ resonating as vindication of the band’s existence and continued rejuvenation. Coleman and Co aren’t sitting back smugly saying ‘I told you so,’ and instead remain intent on spewing vitriol against capitalist greed and environmental destruction, but the pre-millennium tension of their 90s releases seems devastatingly prescient in same the way JG Ballard’s texts portrayed the future by scrutinising the present. That future is now upon us.

Have you ever been attacked? In a fight? I mean properly pounded, battered so hard you hurt all over, body and mind? I have to admit that I haven’t, although I have been socked a few times and once fell while descending a mountain and cracked a couple of ribs, which left me in such agony that even breathing was difficult for almost six weeks. Listening to NV brings all that pain back: every bar feels like a punch to the abdomen, a boot to the ribs. This ain’t listening pleasure: it hurts. But really, what else did you expect from a collaborative effort from two such nihilistic noisemakers?

The context and sonic template is also worth noting: according to the press release, this meeting of deranged minds began in late 2011 with one sole purpose in mind – to capture, digest and regurgitate Godflesh’s 1989 Streetcleaner into a conceptualised nightmare, with Dragged Into Sunlight commenting, “The level of detail in a recording of this nature is inexplicable. Every note lobotomised, remixed and overexposed, exorcising total aural madness.”

That Broadrick himself contributed to the album’s production not only represents a seal of approval, but an indication of the ferocious sonic brutality LV unleashes.

Unsurpringly, then, NV is as nasty as it comes: an album that’s, savage, raw, relentless. It’s not a split release, but a true collaboration, which cements and them amplifies the parts to forge something even greater and more punishing than the sum. Five tracks, all over the five minute mark and all a squalling mesh of violent noise with thunderous drums at 180bpm. Extraneous noise rumbles and squalls and the low and high end respectively, adding mess and noise and tension to the thunderous abrasion to the songs – as if they need further layers of pain and brain torment adding to the dense guitars that scorch like a forest fire.

Sit back and prepare to be very uncomfortable indeed. You’re almost definitely going to hurt afterwards.

Dragged   Gnaw

Dragged Into Sunlight Online